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Anatomy of a CRM project: Replacing Siebel with SAP

Dow Corning made the switch from Siebel to SAP CRM to better fit with its long-term technology roadmap.

ATLANTA -- Ripping out a Siebel CRM system and replacing it with SAP CRM requires a significant amount of planning and integration, but it was work Dow Corning Corp. was willing to undertake.

The Midland, Mich.-based silicon manufacturer wasn't displeased with Siebel, it just no longer fit in with their plans.

@35520 "There wasn't anything wrong with Siebel. The tool worked well, the processes worked well," Bill Pritchett, business process engineer, said during a presentation at SAP's Sapphire conference being held in Atlanta this week. "We had to decide if we wanted to go through an upgrade or transition. Siebel didn't really fit in the long-term technical roadmap."

As CRM matures and consolidates, early adopters of the technology find themselves struggling with the dilemma of whether they want to maintain separate, "best of breed" applications or consolidate on one application platform. Dow Corning elected to go with SAP.

The company had been running SAP for more than 10 years and was running R/3 in November 2005 when executives decided to make the switch to SAP CRM.

First of all, there were a few performance issues, when sales reps would query opportunities, for example, either due to a bug in Siebel or SQL, Pritchett said. Additionally, navigation between the two systems became difficult with two entirely different interfaces. Integration between the back and front office was also a challenge. Sales information was tied to different customer numbers when it returned to the SAP back end.

The switchover was made easier by the fact that Dow Corning had its customer processes well in order by the time it got around to changing systems. Things like the definition of a lead and how marketing tracked programs were already established.

"CRM was not new at Dow; we'd had it six or seven years," Pritchett said. "I can't stress enough working through your processes first. It was really a switchover from the technical side."

The company hired Teaneck, N.J.-based Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. to help make the transition and started with a two-phase project: an analysis phase, which consisted of identifying the data, mapping the functionality and selecting SAP XI as the integration tool; and the design, construction and implementation phase, which ultimately ended with testing and data migration.

The project began in November 2005 and went live in September of 2006.

With the processes in order, Dow Corning turned its attention to integration. The company had to map integration points from myriad sources, including internal and external Web sites; outlook synchronization; Documentum, its document management application; and SAP's back end. The technologies used to conduct the integrations read like an alphabet soup of IT systems: ABAP; .NET; SAP BW; PCUI (People Centric User Interface); XI; SAP .NET connectors; and NetWeaver.

The integration took 740 effort hours to get BW and XI customized and included 100 custom objects, according to Pritchett.

Taking a mobile CRM first step

The company first looked for some quick wins to get people acclimated to the new system. For mobile sales users, Dow Corning established a simplified system of qualifying leads. Sales reps receive an email on their BlackBerry with a link to a simple Web page, where they quickly enter a few fields to qualify leads.

"We wanted a high-value process we could make better by making it mobile," Pritchett said. "It's simple, people like it and people use it because it's easy. Keep it simple and people will use it."

That's a sentiment echoed in Dow Corning's portal integration project. The company has been using SAP's enterprise portal for three years. Sales users log directly into the portal where they can access data like new lead information and expense reporting with personalized screens.

"That's one of the reasons our adoption has been so successful," Pritchett said. "It's part of their everyday life."

However, pitfalls remain with portal integration, specifically security. For example, in R/3, security is "inclusive versus exclusive," Pritchett said. Access needs to be granted and companies need to work closely with the chief security officer on permissions.

"In the portal, security just defines what they see, security defines what they can do," he said. "It takes work to make sure they work perfectly."

Additionally, data migration can be a headache in a project like this. For example, migrating data that includes contacts, prospects, employees, account leads, campaign responses as well as survey results, which are loaded into the CRM system as opportunities, took longer than Dow Corning had anticipated.

"That's something that takes a lot of time and we really learned that as we moved through it," Pritchett said. "Allow plenty of time. If you don't do it quite right, it's something you'll really need to revisit. We're still finding things."

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